The last few years have seen tremendous advances made in the digitization of the world’s printed works. This is hugely important as despite the enormous volume of information available in digital format, there are still huge amounts in printed form.
The task of tracking these works is incredibly laborious, but technology is making great strides in improving matters. The latest of these is described in a recently published paper, and involves automating the task via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) that allows for a work to be scanned via a barcode.
The latest attempt however goes one step further and develops ‘smart shelves’ that come in-built with RFID antennas so that books are automatically registered when they’re added, or taken away, from the shelves.
This approach is being further developed via the use of robotics. The team has developed an autonomous robotic shelf scanning (AuRoSS) platform that goes through the library at night and scans the shelves as it goes.
The method is reminiscent of the robot developed by Simbe Robotics to automatically track and replenish shelves in supermarkets and other stores. The robot was required to successfully navigate the aisles on its own, maintaining a suitably close distance to the shelves to ensure the RFID signals could be read.
This usually had to be done with incomplete mapping of the libraries themselves, forcing the robots to do much of their navigation via information they themselves scanned.
Each robot comes with a small arm that is used to track the shelves in real time. The arm uses ultrasonic sensors to position the RFID antenna in the right place for scanning each book. It’s also capable of detecting errors in position of books.
The robot has already been put through its paces in a number of libraries in Singapore, with a 99 percent accuracy rate achieved, even in challenging environments, suggesting that the technology is robust.
“During the re-opening of Pasir Ris Public Library, we put on a public demonstration and received very positive reactions,” the team said. “We are improving the robustness and analytics engine and integrating into library operations.”
So, we might be seeing robotic librarians coming to a library near you in the not too distant future.